Whether you're interested in eventually accumulating several rental properties to provide yourself with residual income or you find yourself fascinated by the improvement and exchange of real estate in your area, you may be considering obtaining your real estate license to help earn extra income or to save you money in your own transactions. While the thought of attending classes after a full workday instead of spending time with your family may be enough to keep you from pursuing this career path for years, becoming a real estate agent by completing courses and exams on your own schedule has never been easier. Read on to learn more about the benefits of becoming a licensed real estate agent, as well as what you can do to achieve a career (or even just a side job) in real estate during your spare time.

What are some of the benefits of becoming a real estate agent?

Although most states permit homeowners to buy and sell without being represented by a real estate agent, many state laws highly encourage this representation -- and the ability to serve as your own real estate agent when buying and selling rental properties can save you thousands (or tens of thousands) in commission and other fees. You'll have the expertise and network connections to get the best price for your properties, as well as knowing when to pass on a home with potential problems.

If you're planning to use your real estate license to earn money -- either as a full-time career or a source of side income -- it can bring additional benefits, including a flexible schedule (albeit with some last-minute interruptions if you're hurrying to close a transaction) and the ability to work just about whenever and wherever you want. For areas that are up and coming, working in real estate can be a tremendous financial boon, and those who have lived their entire lives in the same town or city may be uniquely positioned to provide selling points and guidance to those who are new to the area. 

Real estate is also a career in which much of your education can be obtained on the job. Rather than spending years (and dollars) attending college full time, you'll be in the workforce, educating yourself on comps and federal housing lingo in your spare time while earning money. You won't need to repay student loans for years after getting your real estate license, and will be uniquely positioned to predict housing trends before they hit your local market.

Where should you begin when pursuing your real estate license?

If you've decided that becoming a real estate agent is the right choice for you, there are several quick and relatively easy ways to obtain your real estate license. The best option for you will often depend on the laws of the state where you're planning to work. Some states have stringent classroom hours and continuing education (CE) requirements, while others allow you to complete your education online in your spare time. For example, Texas real estate agents must spend 180 hours in the classroom learning about various real estate principles, while those who pursue a real estate license in New York will need to spend only 45 hours (or a long week of full-time instruction) in the classroom before taking the licensing exam. 

Your first step should be to research your own state's real estate laws to determine how long you'll need to spend studying on your own (or pursuing classroom instruction) before you can take the exam that will qualify you as a licensed real estate agent. You'll then want to look into your online real estate school and test prep options -- the more education you can get out of the way on your own schedule, the better your odds of seeing the real estate licensing process through to completion.